Melbourne car ramming a ‘deliberate act’ but not treated as terrorism-related yet

By @chelean on
A 32-year-old driver rammed a white SUV into pedestrians at the intersection of Flinders Steet and Elizabeth Street on Dec. 21, 2017.
A 32-year-old driver rammed a white SUV into pedestrians at the intersection of Flinders Steet and Elizabeth Street on Dec. 21, 2017. Google Maps

The car ramming incident in the Melbourne CBD on Thursday afternoon was a “deliberate act,” but Victoria police are not treating it as an act of the terrorism yet. Nineteen people were injured, four of them in critical condition, when a man drove at high speed into pedestrians outside Flinders Street railway station.

At 4:41 p.m., a man driving a white Suzuki 4WD struck pedestrians at the intersection of Flinders and Elizabeth Street before crashing. According to witnesses, people “flew” everywhere as the vehicle travelled 60mph directly at them. Four of the 19 people injured were said to be in critical condition in the hospital. Among the injured is a preschool-aged child, who reportedly suffered head injury. Two people were also treated for non-collision-related injuries.

The 32-year-old driver was arrested by an off-duty male police officer who sustained shoulder and hand injuries during the arrest. The officer was taken to a hospital. The driver was also taken to the hospital under police guard.

The police initially arrested the driver and a 24-year-old man who was seen filming the incident on his phone. The man was found to be carrying a bag containing knives. However, it was later believed that the second man had no links to the incident. He is now assisting police with enquiries.

Victoria Police chief Shane Patton told the press that the driver, who is of Afghan descent, was a person known to the Victoria Police for “historical assault matters.” The driver also has a history of drug use and mental health issues.

“We do not at this time have intelligence to indicate that there is a connection to terrorism,” he said. He added that the police believed that the incident is a singular one.

Commander Russell Barrett also said that they believed it was a deliberate act. When asked why, he said it was based on what they had seen so far, but they still didn’t know the motivation behind the act.

The police are encouraging witnesses to attend the Spencer Street Police Complex at 313 Spencer to provide a statement. The crime scene is active and will remain closed to the public until 7 a.m. Friday.